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BOOKSHELF : Daughters in Law

Born in 1902 near London and called to the bar in 1923, Henry Cecil enjoyed the privilege of watching the law work from a rather close quarter. Which shows in his writings.

india Updated: Jan 07, 2006 16:25 IST

Daughters in Law
Henry Cecil
Price — Rs 150
Publication — Rupa Publishers

Born in 1902 near London and called to the bar in 1923, Henry Cecil enjoyed the privilege of watching the law work from a rather close quarter. Which shows in his writings.

The absurdities of the law is not so apparent from the witness stand. And these are absurdities that may drive a man to suicide but here they form the basis upon which Daughters in Law finds that old English charm of a genial comedy.

So we have Major Claude Bottonstep, a staunch believer that all lawyers are descendants of the devil. His dislike for litigation being larger than his dislike for the most abominable creatures of this planet. After all his family had been ruined by long drawn out litigation. So what happens when his two sons fall in love with two lawyers? It would not be wise to venture beyond this point.

The comic elements, though excellent in themselves, are far surpassed by the hidden motif which plays along the story. The sheer absurdities of the law is only a tradition that most have heard of. The author makes a brilliant rendition of them in his book.

Funny it is, yet in some sense serious. The exaggerated absurdities and infinitely drawn out cases makes one wonder if really the law is an ass. The sheer comic genius of Cecil makes everything seem laughable, which is a wonder.

Most people would think this is barbarous, and it is. But not here. The carefully woven plot twists like a river revealing insights into the minds of its characters. Somewhere along the line the crude provisions of the law takes up a polished veneer.
Here, one isn’t quite reading a book about the absurdities of law, but a comic story. But it keeps playing in the background. And perhaps that is where the law ought to be.

First Published: Jan 07, 2006 16:25 IST